Wakayama – May 2008
1. Wide of sun rise in Kikazu Gawa in Wakayama
2. Smoking kilns in the Kishu Binchotan Commemorative Park
3. Charcoal maker checking colour and condition of the smoke coming from the kiln
4. Various of master charcoal producer Kasamatsu Mitsuhiki checking his kiln
5. Kasamatsu uncovering an opening at the top of the kiln to increase the internal temperature to around 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit)
6. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Tanaka Teruhiko, Director of the Kishu Binchotan Museum
“There are two types of charcoal: black charcoal and white charcoal. Here, we mainly produce white charcoal, known as Binchotan.”
7. Kasamatsu and his wife Mariko raking the charcoal out of the kiln
8. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Kasamatsu Mitsuhiki, master charcoal producer
“After putting the wood in the kiln it usually takes around two weeks to make, twenty days at the latest.”
9. Close up of charcoal in kiln
10. Various of Kasamatsu and his wife Mariko raking the charcoal out of the kiln
11. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Kasamatsu Mitsuhiki, master charcoal producer
(audio overlaid with close up of charcoal in Kasamatsu’s hands)
“We have to make charcoal like this. This is Binchotan. Its like steel.”
12. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Tanaka Teruhiko, Director of the Kishu Binchotan Museum
“When the raw material is in the kiln it reduces by half and the finished product produces a metallic sound. It is very hard.”
13. Various of Kasamatsu and his wife Mariko covering charcoal raked from the kiln in ash to help cool it
14. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Kasamatsu Mitsuhiki, Veteran Charcoal Producer
“Apparently, most of the charcoal that I produce ends up in the Tokyo area.”
15. Close up of inside the kiln
16. Various of Ubame Oak being prepared for the kiln
17. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Tanaka Teruhiko, Director of the Kishu Binchotan Museum
“The charcoal produced here is mostly used to grill eels and other fish. It is generally used in high end restaurants.”
Osaka – May 2008
18. Various of Kitashinchi district in Osaka
19. Exterior of Binchotan De Yakunen, specialist charcoal grill restaurant
20. Close up of Binchotan charcoal in Binchotan restaurant in Osaka’s Kitashinchi district
21. Charcoal grill being delivered to customers
22. Fish and meat being charcoal grilled
23. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) Minamimoto Fumimasa, chef at the Binchotan De Yakunen restaurant
“Compared to black charcoal, charcoal sold in fragmented chips, Binchotan burns at a higher temperature and food grilled using it simply tastes better.”
24. Close up of charcoal grill
25. Various of people eating charcoal grilled food
Tokyo – May 2008
26. Omoide Yoku Cho in Shinjuku, district in Tokyo famous for charcoal grilled chicken
Charcoal grilling is among the most popular cooking style in the Japanese culinary tradition.
Binchotan is a well-known type of charcoal used in many of the top restaurants specialising in charcoal grilled food.
Binchotan charcoal is still produced in Japan’s Wakayama region using a traditional technique that spans centuries.
Yaki tori (grilled chicken) unagi (grilled eels) and yaki niku broiled beef are, to this day, still cooked in Japan in a style that uses Binchotan white charcoal.
Though many restaurants specialising in grilled fish or meat now use gas, others still prefer this old school method.
Charcoal is produced in a number of regions in Japan and also imported, mainly from China, but some of the best quality charcoal used in Japan’s restaurants comes from the Kishu region of Japan’s Wakayama prefecture.
Akizugawa in the Kishu region is famous for producing white charcoal known as Binchotan.
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